The vibrant city of Rome is a must-see spot for many tourists due to its abundance of art, history, and culture. It’s an incredibly overwhelming city because of all that it has to offer. I am incredibly fortunate to have come here for six weeks this summer through study abroad. My first ten days have been overflowing with unforgettable experiences, and I have already learned so much. My study abroad through the Classics Program at the University of Georgia is rather unique. Instead of spending our days in a classroom like we already do, we take walking lectures. We get the opportunity to hear about the history and architectural or artistic style of monuments and artifacts as we stand before them. It’s stunning to see how much more you absorb and truly learn this way. It’s a significantly more rewarding and worthwhile way to learn.
While I am having an amazing time, it has definitely not all been easy. Because I am not simply on vacation, I have a schedule to follow. Our days consist of being up by 7 a.m. (I need time to eat and get ready without rushing) and walking through lecture time from 8:30 a.m. till 1 p.m. After this time, we are free to do whatever we please, including ravenously searching for food. In a day, I have easily amassed 6, 7, and even 9 or 10 miles of walking distance without effort. The first week was utterly exhausting. As someone who has been to Italy before and has traveled a good bit, I was surprised by just how taxing the first week was. I was drained physically and emotionally, and was well on my way to a breakdown/tantrum by my birthday on Friday, June 1st.
After a weekend of intense rest – and I mean intense, Saturday didn’t even happen in my world, I was ready to face a new week. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? That’s the theory at least. Whether or not I come out of this experience a superhuman who needs neither rest nor food, I will have learned some valuable things about spending time in Rome. If you’re planning a trip here, the tips I should amass by the end of the trip will surely be of great help. No need to fear, Super (to be) Lora is here!
Tips from the first ten days:
Carry a scarf or light sweater
This is a tip that you will see on just about anything related to traveling to Rome. There’s a reason for that. If you are visiting in the summer like me, you will quickly notice that you have melted into a puddle of your own sweat. Because of the intense heat and strong sun, you may not always be modestly dressed with your shoulders entirely covered and something down to your knees. If you are still interested in visiting churches, a light scarf or sweater you can wrap around you is an easy fix that lets you stay cool (ish)!
Don’t eat next to tourist sites
Cardinal rule! It’s always your first instinct to find the nearest place to plop your tired, sweaty self down for some carb-loading, but the places closest to places like the Trevi Fountain will be more expensive and are less authentic. Tourist traps! Avoid being labeled a foolish American and venture out farther for your meals.
Breakfast is NOT the most important meal of the day
If you love breakfast as much as I do, you may be disappointed by Italian breakfast. I definitely was. Italians tend to eat smaller and lighter breakfasts than Americans. Cold cuts, yogurt, and a sugared croissant are very common. Sugared croissants are by far the strangest part of Italian breakfast. Being incredibly sticky by 8 a.m. is not an idea I can get behind. There are places for “American” breakfasts in Rome, but they are pricey and will likely still not meet your expectations. You are in a foreign country, do your best to embrace it! I was very hungry my first week in Italy mainly due to my breakfast troubles. Nevertheless, I have adjusted. I am one with Roma. Have you mistaken me for a native yet?
Wear comfortable shoes
Yes, we must always be fashionable when in Rome, but if you’re not wise you will experience foot pain like never before. Find yourself some breathable, stylish sneakers with a thick sole and good cushioning and support. Sandals can work, especially on extremely hot days, but most sandals do not offer enough support for long treks. Some people swear by Birkenstocks for times like this, and others find them too hard to walk in for that long. If you don’t mind looking like a tourist (you probably will anyways, the Italians are experts at spotting them), then go ahead and sport some serious walking/hiking shoes. Whatever you choose, be very conscious of how your feet feel in these shoes!
This is just a fun little tip that will keep you from looking silly! Around Rome you’ll find various fire hydrant-like water fountains. They will always have a stream of water flowing downwards. But if you block this stream with your finger(s), a method called nosing, a thin arc of water will shoot out of a small hole in the fountain. This makes it more like the water fountains you find in America, and just makes it easier to drink in general.
For the foodies:
This small, standup pizza place called Pinsere, in the financial district will make your dreams come true. They have amazing personal-sized pizzas for only 5.50 euro!
Gelateria La Romana has the most to-die-for flavors (my favorite combo is fragola and limone!), starting at just 2.20 euro for a small cup.
For a delicious pasta dish:
Try Ristorante Abrizzi. Slightly more expensive because it is a nice sit-down restaurant, but definitely not going to break the bank.
ALSO: Espresso is never over 1 euro (unless you’re getting overcharged). Endless caffeine!!
This is usually a stop on everyone’s list ever since movies began being made about throwing coins into this fountain. It’s generally always crowded here, but it’s still fun to get your picture taken throwing in a coin. The urban legend is that if you throw three coins in, you’re destined to return to Rome!
Roman Forum/ Palatine Hill
If you’re a fan of old and moderately broken things, you’ll love the Roman Forum. This is the perfect place for history buffs who love seeing ruins! If you read up on it beforehand or have a guide, you can really get a sense of what it used to look like, and it’s quite fascinating. While you’re there, make your way up onto the Palatine Hill for one of the best views of Rome.
While there is an actual museum here and several monuments, it’s a great place to simply spend an afternoon. Bring a book and a picnic, or rent a bike for a leisurely afternoon.
We may have gotten off to a slightly rough start, but Rome and I have since reconciled. We’ve both accepted that we should expect flaws from each other, and we are better off for it. I have a feeling this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.